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Every watch Kubrick’s masterpiece, “2001: a Space Odyssey”? A star of the movie is Douglas Rain’s voice of the HAL 9000, the computer that controls most of the spaceship’s operations. HAL is singularly dedicated to HAL’s self preservation — it’s not “his fault,” it’s just his programming.

When HAL’s humans try to create change, HAL responds with the now infamous line:

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

With Proposition S, teachers, parents and administrators with whom I’ve communicated are enthusiastic about the possibility of improved working conditions at San Diego Unified. At one planning meeting I attended (I attend a lot of meetings as a sandiegounifiedparent) improvements and repairs were discussed on a school-by-school basis: which schools needed technological improvements, which schools needed to be completely razed and replaced, and which schools could do a better job for our children if provided with new learning spaces or just repaired plumbing. This was a meeting attended by teachers, staff, parents and San Diego Unified brass at all levels. Prop S was the result of meetings like this that carefully evaluated the needs of the district’s properties. The response from the SDEA is HAL-ish:

“No, we can’t support that.”

San Diego Unified has many fine schools and opportunities for teachers and children. But, like any urban school district, San Diego Unified also has its more challenging teaching opportunities. Schools with high dropout rates, in high crime areas, schools with a high percentage of English-language learners and high poverty rates. Teaching positions in these schools are critical to children, many of whom don’t get the support they need from home. We need to attract our finest teachers to these difficult positions, and one way to do so is by paying them more money. Just like the private sector, the increased demand for these positions deserves increased compensation for those that rise to the challenges presented to them. The technical term is “differential pay,” but the concept is easy — take a harder job, get a larger paycheck. The response from the SDEA:

“No, we can’t support that.”

Actually, the quote was from SDEA’s Camile Zombro, who called differential pay “an abhorrent idea.”

I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid that’s an abhorrent idea.

PAUL M. BOWERS

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